CubaBrief: Under the cover of COVID-19 epidemic the Castro regime threatens journalists, crushes dissent, and abuses prisoners of conscience

Cuban opposition activist José Daniel Ferrer marks six months in prison today. He was subjected to a political show trial on February 25, 2020, threatened with a nine year prison term and was supposed to be sentenced weeks ago, but has not been informed and kept in a punishment cell as his health declines. Professor Carlos Eire, in Babalu Blog, wrote of his plight in the present media environment: “While Castro, Inc. receives unprecedented praise from all corners of the globe for its transparently phony “humanitarian” medical missions (a.k.a. selling of slave doctors), political prisoners in Cuba continue to suffer unimaginable horrors in fetid dungeons. One of these prisoners, José Daniel Ferrer, has been held in a dank and dark punishment cell since October 1st, slowly starving, undergoing torture, and being denied the medications he needs.”

The Guardian is reporting how governments around the world are engaging in extreme actions that violate both human rights and dignity in the fight against COVID-19, but Cuba goes unmentioned. Perhaps it is because Cuba, like North Korea and China, normally take extreme action to silence dissent at the best of times. However, with the world focused on the pandemic this is a deadly dangerous time for prisoners of conscience, dissidents, and independent journalists in Cuba.

Roberto Jesús Quiñones

Roberto Jesús Quiñones

Thankfully, some in the media are highlighting Cuba’s most desperate cases. James Nosek’s article yesterday in Fortune Magazine, “These 10 journalists have been wrongly punished for covering the coronavirus crisis and other important topics highlights at number eight, Cuban journalist Roberto Jesús Quiñones under the subheading “Journalist subject to inhumane prison conditions.” “Quiñones has spent more than six months behind bars, experiencing worsening treatment. Staff listen to all of his phone calls, have served him food containing worms, and upon learning of his secretly publishing from prison, suspended family visits and put him in solitary confinement.”

Christian Solidarity Worldwide issued a statement on April 2, 2020 in defense of “Yoe Suárez, a Cuban independent journalist, [who] was summoned to Siboney Police Station in Havana on 27 March, where he was interrogated by police and threatened with imprisonment and unspecified ‘repercussions’ for his family.”  Over social media the pattern is clear and ominous for journalists, and human rights defenders in Cuba.

On March 30, 2020 Cuban independent journalist Camila Acosta tweeted that she had been fined for “for publishing what I think”, and she concluded “being a journalist is not a crime.”

A day later over twitter Amnesty International’s Erika Guevara-Rosas tweeted that journalist Camila Acosta “was fined by government of Miguel Diaz-Canel for some Facebook posts, in which she reports on protests by people demanding access to services and food, or on the impact of COVID-19 in Cuba. In addition she was threatened.”

Yoe Suárez today reported over twitter that his mother had been targeted by State Security, ” My mother was just summoned by two agents from Department of State Security (DSE) at the home of a neighbor, who is in charge of the Committee for Surveillance of Defense of the Revolution. They cite her to question her about my work as a journalist. Are promised ‘consequences’ beginning?”

yoe.png

In these difficult times we must remain vigilant and hold the Castro regime responsible for its systematic violation of human rights, and protect pro-democracy activists, human rights defenders, and  those reporting independently on how the dictatorship is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lives both inside and outside of Cuba will depend on them.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide, April 2, 2020

Journalist threatened with imprisonment and repercussions for his family

2 Apr 2020

Yoe Suárez, a Cuban independent journalist, was summoned to Siboney Police Station in Havana on 27 March, where he was interrogated by police and threatened with imprisonment and unspecified “repercussions” for his family.

Yoe Suarez. Credit: Angel del Castillo

Yoe Suarez. Credit: Angel del Castillo

Mr Suárez, 29, has worked with non-state media outlets in Cuba since 2014 and has written extensively about human rights and freedom of religion or belief issues, including the arrest, trial and imprisonment of Cuban pastors Ramón Rigal and Adya Expósito, who were imprisoned in April 2019 for refusing to send their children to government-run schools. He has written for a range of news outlets including Diario de Cuba, Newsweek, and Univisión.

As a result of his work, Mr Suárez has been regularly targeted by the authorities. In 2016 he was expelled from the Latin American Press Agency, Cuba’s official state news agency. Between the end of 2018 and 2019 Yoe was detained and interrogated by State Security officials on three separate occasions at José Martí International Airport in Havana for his journalism activities. He was also arrested in August 2019 in Guantánamo, where he was accused of ‘counterrevolutionary activities.’ His phone was confiscated and he was threatened with imprisonment if he were to return to the city again.

More recently, in February 2020 Mr Suárez was summoned again to Siboney Police Station in Havana where he was interrogated for three hours by a state security agent who threatened reprisals against his family because of his work. Yoe was also informed that he has been subjected to an indefinite travel ban, “by order of the Leadership [of the Cuban Department of State Security].”

CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: “CSW condemns the Cuban authorities’ continued targeting of Yoe Suárez for his peaceful work covering human rights and religious affairs in Cuba. It is deeply concerning that on at least two occasions officials have also threatened repercussions against his family. The fact that Mr. Suárez has also been placed under a travel ban is unacceptable. We call on the Cuban government to cease all harassment of Yoe Suárez and his family, and to allow journalists, activists and human rights defenders on the island to carry out their work without risk of imprisonment or intimidation.”

https://www.csw.org.uk/2020/04/02/press/4598/article.htm

Fortune, April 1, 2020

International One Free Press Coalition

These 10 journalists have been wrongly punished for covering the coronavirus crisis and other important topics

By  James Nosek

April 1, 2020 8:45 AM EST

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads worldwide, journalists are dedicated to covering the outbreak and and providing the public with important information.

However, some members of the press have been censored and condemned for their coronavirus reporting.

Freelance economic reporter Mohammad Mosaed of Iran, for example, warned about the pandemic and criticized the Iranian government for being unprepared to handle the coronavirus. Mosaed, who has since been arrested and is awaiting trial, can’t practice journalism, and all of his social media accounts have been suspended.

This also goes for Chinese video journalist Chen Qiushi, who disappeared more than six weeks ago and is still missing after reporting on the current global health crisis. In a Twitter update, Chen’s friends said they believe he is being held in residential surveillance.

Many other journalists around the globe have been punished for their reporting on topics and disciplines beyond the coronavirus outbreak. Cuban journalist Roberto Jesús Quiñones was covering a trial for CubaNet and apparently showed “resistance” to police in doing so. He has since spent more than six months behind bars—and even time in solitary confinement.

Award-winning reporter Azimjon Askarov has been held even longer. Askarov has served nine-plus years of a life sentence for reporting on human rights violations in Kyrgyzstan. He is preparing for a final appeal.

In conjunction with 36 other media organizations, Fortune is committed to helping journalists achieve justice and freedom by publishing a monthly list of the 10 Most Urgent press freedom cases (see below).

Compiled by the One Free Press Coalition (OFPC) in partnership with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF), the lists have brought awareness to the dangers journalists face. (You can read last month’s list here.)

1. Mohammad Mosaed (Iran)

Journalist who warned about pandemic, banned from work and social media.
Freelance economic reporter Mohammad Mosaed awaits a court date, after intelligence agents of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) arrested and interrogated him in February regarding social media accounts critical of the government. The criticism included Iran’s lack of preparedness in tackling the coronavirus outbreak. Until trial, authorities bar him from practicing journalism and suspended his social media accounts. Last year he endured 16 days in Evin prison for his tweets and was released on bail.

2. Maria Ressa (Philippines)

Editor facing potential detention, arrested again March 28.
Rappler editor Maria Ressa is scheduled for trial April 24, expecting a verdict on a cyber-libel charge brought by local businessman Wilfredo Keng regarding a May 2012 story. The relevant law took effect four months after the story in question was published. Depending on how judges interpret the 2012 Cybercrime Prevention Act, Ressa could face six years in prison. 

3. Alaa Abdel Fattah (Egypt)

Family of jailed journalist protests prisons’ inaction in preventing COVID-19 threat.
While blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah is held in Cairo’s Tora prison, three of his family members face charges of unlawful protest, illegal assembly, and obstructing traffic in their call to protect prisoners from the spread of the coronavirus. They were released on bail exceeding $300 apiece. After reporting about politics and human rights violations, Abdel Fattah has endured threats and been told he will never go free if he speaks of guards’ abuse.

4. Chen Qiushi (China)

Journalist covering coronavirus disappeared more than six weeks ago.
Freelance video journalist Chen Qiushi has not been seen since Feb. 6, when he informed family of plans to report on a temporary hospital. In late January, he had traveled from Beijing to the city of Wuhan in Hubei province and began filming and reporting on the coronavirus health crisis, according to his posts on YouTube. Friends running his Twitter account believe he is likely held in residential surveillance.

5. Claudia Julieta Duque (Colombia)

Journalist fears for her life, amid government-orchestrated threats.
After 19 years of persecution and legal censorshipaward-winning journalist Claudia Julieta Duque told IWMF that she learned on Feb. 29 about an ongoing criminal threat against her life. According to Duque, former agents of the state institution in charge of protecting human rights defenders and at-risk journalists, called the National Protection Unit (UNP), were reportedly ordered to carry out intelligence activities from February 2018 to July 2019 to infiltrate Duque’s security scheme and threaten her welfare.

6. Martin Inoua Doulguet (Chad)

Imprisoned publisher undertook hunger strike while awaiting appeal.
No date has been set, following postponement of a March 12 appeal in the case of Martin Inoua Doulguet, publisher of Salam Info. He was found guilty on criminal charges of defamation and conspiracy in September, and sentenced to three years in prison. The privately owned quarterly newspaper reports on crime and politics in Chad, and Doulguet’s penalty includes a $1,675 fine and paying part of the $33,514 in plaintiff damages.

7. Azimjon Askarov (Kyrgyzstan)

Journalist serving life sentence prepares for final appeal.
On April 6, a Kyrgyz court is scheduled to hear the final appeal in the case of award-winning journalist Azimjon Askarov. The ethnic Uzbek, who reported on human rights, has spent more than nine years imprisoned on trumped-up charges that included incitement to ethnic hatred and complicity in the murder of a police officer. The decade-long case has drawn persistent international condemnation, and Kyrgyzstan’s only imprisoned journalist’s health deteriorates.

8. Roberto Jesús Quiñones (Cuba)

Journalist subject to inhumane prison conditions.
Cuban journalist Roberto Jesús Quiñones has spent more than six months behind bars, experiencing worsening treatment. Staff listen to all of his phone calls, have served him food containing worms, and upon learning of his secretly publishing from prison, suspended family visits and put him in solitary confinement. A municipal court in Guantánamo sentenced him to serve one year as a result of “resistance” and “disobedience” when police beat and detained him for covering a trial as a CubaNet contributor last April and his refusal to pay a fine imposed on him following this incident.

9. Ignace Sossou (Benin

Reporter experiences repeated retaliation for his work. 
On two different occasions last year, Benin courts delivered prison sentences to Ignace Sossou, a reporter for privately owned site Web TV. The first was a one-month imprisonment and fine of $850 for publishing “false information” about local business dealings. Then came an 18-month sentence and fine of $337 for defamation and disinformation in his reporting on public statements made by public prosecutor Mario Mètonou.

10. Jamal Khashoggi (Saudi Arabia)

Turkish and U.S. leaders continue pressuring for justice in wake of journalist’s murder.
On March 25 Turkish officials indicted 20 Saudi nationals in the ongoing pursuit for answers surrounding Jamal Khashoggi’s brazen killing in Istanbul in 2018 and the Saudi crown prince’s role. That follows a March 3 news conference with U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, Rep. Tom Malinowski, and the Washington Post columnist’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, announcing that they are invoking procedures within the Senate intelligence committee to provide a congressional release of information from intelligence agencies.

Fortune would like to hear your voice. Email us at feedback@fortune.com.

https://fortune.com/2020/04/01/most-urgent-cases-journalists-ranked-april-2020/

Babalu Blog, March 30, 2020

Cuban political prisoner José Daniel Ferrer still awaits sentencing in inhumane punishment cell

March 30, 2020 by Carlos Eire

From our Bureau of Non-Fictional Castronoid Humanitarianism

While Castro, Inc. receives unprecedented praise from all corners of the globe for its transparently phony “humanitarian” medical missions (a.k.a. selling of slave doctors), political prisoners in Cuba continue to suffer unimaginable horrors in fetid dungeons.

One of these prisoners, José Daniel Ferrer, has been held in a dank and dark punishment cell since October 1st, slowly starving, undergoing torture, and being denied the medications he needs.

That’s half a year. He is very thin and weak, says his wife, but his resolve remains strong and unbroken.

The Castronoid court that tried him secretly and quickly has threatened to sentence him to nine years in prison, which, of course, means spending nearly a whole decade in the same inhumane conditions, or worse.

His sole “crime” is disagreeing with the brutal policies of the Castro regime and attracting international attention to human rights abuses in Cuba..

His plight has caught the attention of international human rights organizations, but, as usual, Castro, Inc. held his trial while the world was dealing with one of the worst plagues in centuries and all attention has been diverted from the sins of the Castro regime.

So it goes. Lord have mercy…..

Ferrer’s wife, Dr. Nelva Ismarays Ortega, and their youngest son

Ferrer’s wife, Dr. Nelva Ismarays Ortega, and their youngest son

Loosely translated from Marti Noticias:

Political prisoner José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) is “extremely thin and weak” and continues in a punishment cell, without receiving a sentence from the trial to which he was subjected on February 25, says his wife, Dr. Nelva Ismarays Ortega, after visiting him in prison.

Speaking to Radio Televisión Martí, Ortega stated that this time she went to visit Ferrer accompanied by two of his sons, Fátima and José Daniel.

“We arrived on time but we had to wait for about an hour for the temperature taking (due to the coronavirus crisis) and the burdensome demands they made of us, which included food [for Jose Daniel Ferrer],” she said.

Ortega added that “they took us to the same office as the chief warden of the unit, Major Osmany, and we had to wait about ten minutes until my husband was brought in handcuffs, as always, but this time with a surgical mask on his face. “

My husband is extremely thin and remains weak due to the limited diet. In addition, he lacks the medications he needs for his various illness,” she stressed.

The doctor affirmed that Ferrer conserves “the same spirit of always, the mettle, the will power and the firmness of his ideas and principles”.

He specified that the UNPACU leader continues to be isolated from the penal community, “surviving under the same inhuman, degrading, cruel and criminal conditions, without any belongings at all and in the same punishment cell, small, cramped, cold, dirty and full of mosquitoes. “

Regarding the sentence, she clarified that she has not yet been given the official document that would confirm the nine years in prison to which the regime wants to condemn him.

Ferrer was prosecuted along with fellow opponents Roilán Zárraga Ferrer, José Pupo Chaveco and Fernando González Vaillant, all members of UNPACU.

Human rights organizations, governments and recognized world figures have denounced the judicial process against these dissidents for lack of transparency and due process, and have demanded their immediate and unconditional release.

https://babalublog.com/2020/03/30/cuban-political-prisoner-jose-daniel-ferrer-still-awaits-sentencing-in-inhumane-punishment-cell-after-sham-trial/